Women and Children More at Risk in Province: Ontario Association of Interval and Transition Houses Report, November 2003Wednesday, July 28 2010
Women and Children More at Risk in Province: Ontario Association of Interval and Transition Houses Report, November 2003
The title of this report is borrowed from the Liberal Party election campaign slogan "choose change" because we look forward to a new approach that will offer hope to women and children experiencing violence in Ontario. Abused women work hard every day to change their lives and the lives of their children. Governments can take women's lives from poverty to promise, from fear to freedom--if they choose to take action now. During November Wife Assault Prevention Month in Ontario, we especially look forward to positive and speedy change.
This brief report outlines some of women's stuggles to end the violence in their lives and a few of the actions we hope to see as a new government takes the issue forward.
Recommendations for action:
Provincial action plan must start from material conditions of women and children's lives and their advocacy needs
It has long been known that intimate violence against women is a mechanism of power that abusive men use to establish and maintain control. It is not a mental illness. It is not only a crime. It is not caused by stress or alcohol abuse. It's root cause is historical inequality of women: socially, economically and politically. Only a plan that addresses the historical disadvantage and unequal material conditions of women's lives has any hope of ending violence against women. That means examining and implementing social policy from an gender equality rights perspective between men and women--and among women themselves.
This report outlines some of the material conditions abused women and their children struggle with. It especially focusses on poverty and lack of housing as only two of the critical conditions that drive women back into abuse. It also highlights the struggle of shelters for women and children attempting to escape violence. A platform for effective action recognizes these material conditions and builds a plan of action based on them.
There are many steps to be taken on this journey--many of them are included in the inquest recommendations and Emergency Measures outlined previously and others are still to be developed. Some broad areas for immediate attention include:
Economic, Housing and Childcare Supports for Women
For abused women, an immediate increase in social assistance and housing development would show that the Liberals will not wait to address the desperate conditions of poverty abused women and children face. While we recognize that the Province has a deficit, we very much agree with Premier McGuinty's statement in Opposition that there is also a human deficit that must be addressed in Ontario--and that its costs are rising.
We would also like to see immediate action to eliminate increasing barriers for women and children accessing social assistance, legal aid and priority housing placement. The recommendations of the Hadley inquest provide guidance to policy makers in this regard.
Women also need increased subsidized childcare in order to live independently, coupled with access to education and job training that can help them rebuild their lives. Abused women experiencing poverty want to get off welfare. Government can help them do that now.
Women's Shelters, Second Stage Programs, Neighbourhood and Community Services
Women's shelters need an immediate restoration of the 5% cut to their core service budgets. Second stage funding cuts must be fully reinstated and provided directly to services to bring them back under provincial jurisdiction. Following an influx of crisis funding, a review of ongoing funding needs must be undertaken immediately to ensure that shelters never again have to turn women and children away or fail to serve their diverse needs. The new Liberal government must implement the recommendations of both the May-Iles and Hadley juries, as well as the Emergency Measures as the blueprint for change to prevent further murders.
Violence against women and the poverty that traps women in abusive relationships has greater impact on marginalized groups of women. Funding must be provided to ensure that all women have access to services, advocacy and equality. Racially and ethnically specific neighbourhood women's groups and women's centres must have stable ongoing funding. Immigrant women and children need expanded cultural interpreter services and assistance with immigration issues. Francophone women's services need expansion and stable funding. Women in rural and Northern regions need increased transportation supports. Specific supports must also be developed for abused women with disabilities and deaf women, women with psychiatric concerns and substance abuse issues, young women in dating relationships, as well as older women who need additional assistance.
Legal Systems and Child Welfare
Both the family law and criminal systems still have a way to go before they are the true allies of women and children escaping abuse. Women need expansion of family law legal aid immediately. They need to know that family law will help them protect their children from abusive ex-partners and provide the child support they need to raise their families. Women need a province-wide differential response by child welfare that holds abusers, not mothers, accountable for the abuse children witness. Child welfare must refuse to re-victimize women when abusers expose children to violence.
Support for Women's Public Advocacy
Under the previous government, advocacy was an unwelcome practice. For abused women and their children, however, it is critical, not only for individual women and children, but at policy levels as well.
Go to DAWN Ontario at http://dawn.thot.net/oaith.html for the rest of the non-PDF version of the report.